Fewer Religious, Arab Schools on List of 'Excellent' Israeli Schools

Annual Education Ministry figures show reversal of recent trends. Teachers in listed schools to receive bonuses.

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A high-school class in Haifa. Illustrative photo.Credit: Ilya Melnikov

Fewer national-religious and Israeli Arab secondary schools appear on this year’s Education Ministry list of schools excelling in academic achievements and social values than in past years. There are 277 secondary schools on the list, which is being issued for the fourth year.

Teachers in the schools that appear on the 2015-16 list will receive bonuses ranging from 3,000 shekels ($796) to 8,000 shekels ($2,121). The total budget for rewarding the staff of the outstanding schools is 50 million shekels.

The list was initiated by former Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, and the criteria for inclusion were drawn up by the Education Ministry and the treasury together with the Secondary School Teachers Association as part of the salary reform plan known as Oz Letmura. The schools on the list are those who “brought about the most significant changes in their pupils compared to the previous year,” and not the schools with the highest actual achievements.

Eleven percent of the schools on the list are from the Arab sector, down from 14 percent last year, and lower than the ratio of Arabs in the population (20 percent). Unlike last year, when the percentage of national-religious schools on the list was substantially higher than their ratio in the population (34 percent, compared to 20 percent of the population), this year the percentage of national-religious schools was only 22.7 percent. Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) schools made up 5.42 percent of the list.

The criteria are divided between academic, social and ethical achievements. Academic achievements reflect the percentage of pupils who earn a matriculation certificate, high scores on the matriculation exams, the quality of the matriculation certificates and the improvements in pupil achievement as individuals, not just in terms of matriculating. Teachers receive bonuses for achievements in the humanities, not just in math and sciences, in an effort to restore the status of humanities subjects. Also examined is the integrity of the testing process and the quality of the schools’ evaluation procedures.

Social achievements include dropout prevention and various levels of how close pupils came to matriculating. Ethical achievements include the integration of special education pupils and high rates of enlistment in military or national service. The Education Ministry stressed that “non-Jewish schools whose graduates volunteer for military or civilian service are not penalized by low numbers; every school in each sector is only compared to other schools in its sector.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett congratulated the winning teachers, saying, “The future of the State of Israel depends on the quality of its educators. This is your moment, when we pause to say thank you. Thanks to all the teachers who invest every day and every hour to train, educate and instill values in generations of teenagers.”